Restrictive Voter Registration Laws May Have Affected Elections

It looks like a number of voter ID and registration requirements may have tipped a number of elections across the country on election day.

The Washington Post says a number of measures that make it more difficult for voters to register may have driven down turnout last week to levels not seen since the 1940's. 

Additionally, these new voter ID laws may have tipped a number of races.

In the meantime, some ­back-of-the-envelope calculations from Wendy Weiser — director of the Democracy Program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice — should at least give us pause: Right now, it looks like the margin of victory in some of the most competitive races around the country was as big as the likely “margin of disenfranchisement,” as Weiser puts it. That is, more people were newly denied the right to vote than actually cast deciding ballots.

Of course, we don’t know how the disenfranchised would have voted, and whether their votes would have flipped these races’ results. Restrictive voting laws tend to disproportionately affect certain groups that lean Democratic — minorities, the young, the poor — but such groups do not vote exclusively for Democrats. And another group that is frequently hurt by voter ID laws, the elderly, tends to lean Republican. For all we know, Virginia’s restrictive new voter ID law actually helped Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat, narrowly “steal” victory from his Republican challenger (by just 16,000 votes!) because lots of elder conservatives lacked adequate idenfication documents.